Some of the most dangerous non-native ant species have established an invasive habitat in Georgia. The most well known of these ants, the red imported fire ant, can be found in every county within the state. Most invasive ant species in the southeast are native to South America, and they wind up in the US via lumber and plant shipments from South American countries. Unfortunately, an additional non-native ant species has recently been confirmed as an invasive pest within Georgia and other southeastern states.
This species, Odontomachus haemtodus, is frequently referred to as a trap-jaw ant on account of the species’ ability to open their jaws at 180 degrees to inflict painful bites. More important, this species’ jaws allow specimens to hop into the air in order to avoid predators and to attack prey. Trap-jaw ants inflict both bites and stings to humans, much like the red imported fire ant. These ants are unusually aggressive toward anything that disturbs their nests, and these nests are now being found in residential areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida where they pose a significant public health threat. Unlike red imported fire ants, which infest residential lawns, trap-jaw ants nest within both homes and yards.
The first O. haemtodus specimens found in the US were recovered back in the late 1950s in Mississippi, but at the time, experts assumed that this South America ant species would not be able to survive the relatively temperate southern US climate. As time progressed, this species gradually spread to new regions along the Gulf Coast, but their spread went unnoticed by experts due to this species close resemblance to native ants belonging to the same genus. Today, O. haemtodus sting encounters are prompting calls to poison control centers and extension offices all over the southeast. According to entomologist Joe Magowan, trap-jaw ants are being found in residential areas, including inside of homes, and these ants deal out extremely painful stings with little provocation due to their uniquely aggressive behavior. Researchers have only just started collecting O. haemtodus specimens from the Gulf Coast, and there is no doubt that the invasive ants will increase their presence in the region.
Have you ever sustained ant stings within your home?